Semiconductor nanocrystals such as quantum dots (QDs) are a potentially powerful resource in the fields of flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. QD size and fluorescence characteristics offer attractive features for use in targeted delivery systems and detection by flow cytometry. While quantitative measurements of a variety of fluorescent molecules are routinely performed, fluorophores for which no calibration standards exist, such as QDs, pose a problem for quantitation in flow cytometry. Our goal was to develop a targeted nanoparticle delivery platform as well as a corresponding method to accurately and quantitatively assess the performance of this system. We synthesized surface-modified QD probes targeted to cellular surface receptors and measured the MFI of the resulting cell-probe conjugates by flow cytometry. MFI was converted to mean equivalent R-PE intensity (MEPE) using standard calibration microspheres. Known concentrations of both R-PE and QD probes were measured by fluorometry to relate R-PE and QD fluorescence. Fluorometry results were then used to translate MEPE measurements to the number of bound QD probes. The targeted probes exhibited superior binding characteristics over unmodified and untargeted particles. This binding interaction was shown to be specific and mediated by the NGR targeting peptide tethered to the QD surface. The calibration method developed to assess this system proved successful at converting raw fluorescence data to quantitative probe binding values. We demonstrate the synthesis and performance of a highly modular nanoparticle system capable of targeted binding and fluorescent imaging. The calibration method implemented to quantify the performance of this system represents a potentially powerful tool to utilize truly quantitative flow cytometry measurements with an array of fluorescent molecules, including QDs.
(c) 2008 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.